Some dog I got too. We call him Egypt. Because in every room he leaves a pyramid.

~ Rodney Dangerfield ~

Praise Where It’s Due And It Usually Is

March 13th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 44 secs

How do you praise well?

Praise has been overdone. These days, people praise anything, right down to failure and resentment. Anything, it seems, gets recognition. So that even the infamous get the badge of celebrity.

Compared to times past, praise seems to come more freely. So it’s not surprising there’s a cynical view about the way praise is used as shallow platitudes, often hiding agendas of one sort or another.

Teachers, for instance, are famous for giving praise that often feels slightly hollow. You get the impression it’s meant to be affirming but, if it’s tied to nothing other than sentiment, it feels slightly patronizing.

Good boy, Johnny. You are such a nice boy with so much potential”, seems harmless enough. But there’s not a lot for Johnny to take home in that, other than he’s “a nice boy” with “potential”. Praise without substance just doesn’t hit the mark. With well-intentioned sincerity, some other professionals adopt similar approaches. So too do good-natured people in the corporate world, politics, clubs, churches, and other religious groups.

Praise that’s vague is something of a contradiction because it undercuts what it’s meant to support. So what are we to do? Perhaps the simplest answer is not to offer congratulations unless it’s due.

That being the case, some will say, “Well, if that’s so, I don’t need to praise anyone again unless they do something really spectacular”. But that would be missing the issue.

We all benefit from praise when it’s coupled to genuine effort and achievement. Because it’s energizing, encouraging, and ennobling, praise deserves the effort it takes to make it genuine. That means we need to become sensitized to the efforts of others so that our praise hits the mark.

As it happens, people frequently do deserve praise. The trick is finding it and not making something up. We’ve got to listen and observe to understand people better and identify those areas of above average effort or particular achievement.

Commending people when you can and basing it on genuine observations is a far better way of delivering praise. That way, people will find themselves drawn to you and feel better about them selves (not patronized or processed, but respected and understood).

The heart of praise and its compelling power rests in its authenticity and that takes observation. Which is another reason why praising others well is an intelligent and satisfying thing to do.


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